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Ovalbumin production using Trichoderma reesei culture and low-carbon energy could mitigate the environmental impacts of chicken-egg-derived ovalbumin

Abstract

Ovalbumin (OVA) produced using the fungus Trichoderma reesei (Tr-OVA) could become a sustainable replacement for chicken egg white protein powder—a widely used ingredient in the food industry. Although the approach can generate OVA at pilot scale, the environmental impacts of industrial-scale production have not been explored. Here, we conducted an anticipatory life cycle assessment using data from a pilot study to compare the impacts of Tr-OVA production with an equivalent functional unit of dried chicken egg white protein produced in Finland, Germany and Poland. Tr-OVA production reduced most agriculture-associated impacts, such as global warming and land use. Increased impacts were mostly related to industrial inputs, such as electricity production, but were also associated with glucose consumption. Switching to low-carbon energy sources could further reduce environmental impact, demonstrating the potential benefits of cellular agriculture over livestock agriculture for OVA production.

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Fig. 1: Flow chart of the processes involved in the production of Tr-OVA.
Fig. 2: Environmental impact of Tr-OVA production per scenario.
Fig. 3: Comparison of the environmental impact of Tr-OVA with egg white powder.
Fig. 4: Sensitivity analyses of the FI Tr-OVA model per kg of Tr-OVA product.

Data availability

To the best of our ability, we have provided the data supporting the findings in this paper and its Supplementary Information files. Any additional data, particularly related to adjustments made in the background processes of our model, are available on request from the corresponding author.

Code availability

The code that was used to generate results for this study is freely available on request from the corresponding author.

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Acknowledgements

This work was part of the ‘Cultured meat in the post-animal bioeconomy’ project (no. 201802185) funded by the KONE foundation (N.J. and T.R.) and the ‘Transforming agriculture with agroecological symbiosis combined with cellular agriculture—environmental impacts and perceptions of farmers and consumers’ project funded by the Finnish Cultural Foundation (N.-L.M.). The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish or preparation of the manuscript. We thank A. M. Whipp (MPH Epidemiology) for her assistance with language editing and R. Heijungs for his instructions on how to perform a dependent modified null hypothesis significance test.

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Authors and Affiliations

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Contributions

N.J., T.P., N.-L.M., Y.K., C.P.L., E.N. and H.L.T. designed the work. N.J., T.P., N.-L.M., L.K., C.P.L., E.N. and H.L.T. collected the data. N.J., T.P. and N.-L.M. created the model. N.J. and T.P. performed the interpretation and drafted the manuscript with valuable input from N.-L.M., Y.K., L.K., D.E.-C., C.P.L., T.R., E.N. and H.L.T. All authors reviewed and approved the final manuscript.

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Correspondence to Natasha Järviö.

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Competing interests

T.P. is a co-founder, shareholder and, from 20 April 2021, an employee of the start-up company Volare Solutions (Finland), which aims to commercialize the production of Hermetia illucens L. from industrial side streams and its use as feed (non-food) protein ingredient. This process, however, is unrelated to this article. All other authors declare no competing interests.

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Peer review statement Nature Food thanks Thomas Brück, Vijai Kumar Gupta and Giuseppe Vignali for their contribution to the peer review of this work.

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Supplementary information

Supplementary Information

Supplementary background data on cleaning-in-place assumptions, emissions factors for combustion of natural gas, input–output table for the production of Tr-OVA, changed parameters used for the sensitivity analyses and short discussion on by-product allocation.

Reporting Summary.

Supplementary Data

This file provides all data used to create the figures. In addition, it provides the statistical test results and gives the SimaPro model used for the production process of Tr-OVA, chicken-based egg white powder and the Finnish low carbon mix.

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Järviö, N., Parviainen, T., Maljanen, NL. et al. Ovalbumin production using Trichoderma reesei culture and low-carbon energy could mitigate the environmental impacts of chicken-egg-derived ovalbumin. Nat Food 2, 1005–1013 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1038/s43016-021-00418-2

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